Volleyball Season Ends in NCCAA Nationals

by Josh Neuhart

Grace’s volleyball team wrapped up its 2012 campaign at the NCCAA National Championships on Friday.

The Lady Lancers (23-19) dropped a pair of matches to conclude pool play from the Kissimmee Civic Center.

In their first match of the day, Grace’s offense was slow to get on track in a three-set loss to Fresno Pacific.

The Lady Lancers totaled 25 kills on a .111 hitting percentage as they fell 25-15, 25-17 and 25-18.

Grace’s strongest offensive set came in the second as they pounded out 10 kills on two errors. But they couldn’t keep pace with the Sunbirds’ (26-3) offense in an eight-point defeat.

Grace was neck-and-neck with Fresno Pacific in the third set and trailed by just one point midway through. The Sunbirds, however, concluded the match by pulling away for a seven-point win.

Annie Salazar led all players with 16 digs, Dana Johnston recorded six kills and two block assists, and Arielle Walters added four block assists.

Grace’s scores were much closer in their final match of the day in a loss to Oakland City.

The Lady Lancers jumped out in front to start the match, ahead 14-11. Oakland City charged back with five straight points, however, and continued their momentum to a 25-22 win.

Grace started slowly in the second set by losing five of the game’s first six points, but the team rallied back to level the score. The set battled back-and-forth until the Oaks (30-4) scored three straight late to take a 22-19 lead.

Head coach Andria Harshman called a time-out, and the strategy appeared to work as the Lady Lancers responded by cutting the Oaks’ lead to 23-22. But Oakland City eventually closed the door in a 25-23 win.

Oakland City held a comfortable lead early in the third set before Grace made a push to come within two points at 17-15. The Oaks proved to be too much to handle, however, as they closed out the match with a 25-21 victory.

Hannah Clemmons highlighted Grace’s match against Oakland City with a double-double of 11 kills and a match-high 17 digs.

Johnston recorded 12 kills on a .308 percentage, and Walters added two solo blocks and three block assists.

The defeat ends the careers of standout seniors Bethany Whitcraft, Arielle Walters and Stefanie Bolt. The trio, under head coach Andria Harshman, helped transform the Lady Lancers from a bottom feeder in the Crossroads League into a perennial league contender. Grace earned two straight berths into the NCCAA Nationals during the seniors’ junior and senior seasons.